COVID-19 Effects on Aviation

13 Mar 20 22 Comments

It’s hard to have a conversation about anything but the Coronavirus at the moment. There is so much information and misinformation being shared right now. It reminds me of the situation directly after a commercial crash, where everyone desperately wants to know what happened and why, even though not a lot of solid information is available.

As a result, I’ve cancelled today’s post in favour of a discussion on what we know so far and how this is affecting the aviation industry as a whole.

First: let’s look at some numbers.

This datapack from information is beautiful deals with the preliminary statistics and the numbers were last updated on the 11th of March. It’s a good place to look for quick and easy information and includes links to all data sources and the Google spreadsheets used to generate the graphics, although it’ll be out of date very quickly.

COVID-19 #Coronavirus Data Pack
COVID-19 #Coronavirus Data Pack

The World Health Organisation reports that Europe is now the epicenter of the COVID19 pandemic. Today’s media briefing underscores that countries must take a comprehensive approach, combining aggressive testing and contract tracing combined with social distancing measures and community mobilisation.


Today’s daily update from the CAPA center for aviation reports that as of today:

  • The US has suspended travel from Europe’s Schengen zone,
  • Lufthansa has suspended most routes to the US with the exception of four routes,
  • The Indian government has suspended all existing tourist visas,
  • Kuwait Airport has suspended all commercial aviation services,
  • Chinese civil aviation authority has reported a loss of CNY 24.6 billion (about three billion US dollars) in the aviation industry for February 2020, mostly by the country’s airlines,
  • The Australian government has advised its citizens that they should reconsider any need to travel overseas at this time,
  • About 25% of the worldwide Airbus A380 fleet is being grounded in a response to the current crisis.

UK and Irish airlines may get an advantage as Europeans travelling to the US can still fly through those airports.

Quantas is increasing its Sunrise service offering non-stop flights from Perth to London to twice a day, which means travellers can reduce the risk of picking up the virus at layovers.

Other than that, the situation is pretty grim for the aviation industry.

This is a somewhat random selection but gives us a pretty good look at the immediate effects of the virus on the aviation industry and what a chaotic force it is. The US/Europe ban alone is going to impact a million seats per week.


The ICAO has published a Q&A for Member States, Air Transport Operators and the General Public to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, which attempts to strike a balance between safety from infection and the bankruptcy of airlines, airports and other aviation industries who are not equipped to deal with a sudden cessation of business.

What do ICAO standards require in terms of organization when States respond to communicable diseases of international concern such as COVID-19?

Answer:
A National Aviation Plan that references planning for an outbreak of communicable diseases must be in place. It should follow the guidance provided by ICAO and preparedness guidance available from the WHO.
A National Air Transport Facilitation Programme or similar body must also be in place that clarifies roles and responsibilities of all relevant government agencies and ministries and other stakeholders for the prevention of the spread of disease, as per ICAO Doc10042 Model National Air Transport Facilitation Programme.

ICAO requires that “Contracting States shall not prevent an aircraft from calling at any international airport for public health reasons” unless such action is taken in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005) of the World Health Organization.

WHO evidence provides some support for short-term measures that might interfere with international traffic at the early containment phase of an outbreak. However, longer-term restrictions are normally not effective once appropriate containment measures are in place. Article 43 of the International Health Regulations precise that States must inform WHO about additional health measures that significantly interfere with international traffic.

The ICAO’s COVID-19 page offers a lot of valuable information including whether (and how) to restrict international travel, procedures for aircraft disinfection, and how crew should report a suspect case of communicable diseases.


Last week’s IATA study on investor concerns as the coronavirus spreads globally includes data from previous disease outbreaks.

This report predicted that, in the case of an “extensive spread” where the virus spreads in all countries which reported ten or more confirmed cases, following the same pattern as the outbreak did in China, the aviation industry would suffer a $113 billion loss of passenger revenues world-wide with the questionable benefit of a fall in oil prices. However, their latest press release, IATA Reacts to Latest US Travel Restrictions puts these numbers into question, showing just how quickly the information is changing.

Airlines are already struggling with the severe impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on their business. On 5 March 2020, IATA estimated that the crisis could wipe out some $113 billion of revenue. That scenario did not include such severe measures as the US and other governments (including Israel, Kuwait, and Spain) have since put in place.

The US measures will add to this financial pressure. The total value of the US-Schengen market in 2019 was $20.6 billion. The markets facing the heaviest impact are US-Germany ($4 billion), US-France ($3.5 billion) and US-Italy ($2.9 billion).

They call on governments to prepare for the economic impact and buffer the economic dislocation that travel restrictions will cause.

They quote the World Health Organisation’s advice for international traffic in relation to the outbreak, published on the 29th of February.

WHO continues to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

In general, evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions. Furthermore, restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses, and may have negative social and economic effects on the affected countries. However, in certain circumstances, measures that restrict the movement of people may prove temporarily useful, such as in settings with few international connections and limited response capacities.

Travel measures that significantly interfere with international traffic may only be justified at the beginning of an outbreak, as they may allow countries to gain time, even if only a few days, to rapidly implement effective preparedness measures. Such restrictions must be based on a careful risk assessment, be proportionate to the public health risk, be short in duration, and be reconsidered regularly as the situation evolves.

Travel bans to affected areas or denial of entry to passengers coming from affected areas are usually not effective in preventing the importation of cases but may have a significant economic and social impact.


In terms of practical responses, the report on the Response to COVID-19 in Taiwan, Big Data Analytics, New Technology, and Proactive Testing published on the JAMA network gets into detail of Taiwan’s successful containment strategy.

COVID-19 occurred just before the Lunar New Year during which time millions of Chinese and Taiwanese were expected to travel for the holidays. Taiwan quickly mobilized and instituted specific approaches for case identification, containment, and resource allocation to protect the public health. Taiwan leveraged its national health insurance database and integrated it with its immigration and customs database to begin the creation of big data for analytics; it generated real-time alerts during a clinical visit based on travel history and clinical symptoms to aid case identification. It also used new technology, including QR code scanning and online reporting of travel history and health symptoms to classify travelers’ infectious risks based on flight origin and travel history in the past 14 days. Persons with low risk (no travel to level 3 alert areas) were sent a health declaration border pass via SMS (short message service) messaging to their phones for faster immigration clearance; those with higher risk (recent travel to level 3 alert areas) were quarantined at home and tracked through their mobile phone to ensure that they remained at home during the incubation period.

Moreover, Taiwan enhanced COVID-19 case finding by proactively seeking out patients with severe respiratory symptoms (based on information from the National Health Insurance [NHI] database) who had tested negative for influenza and retested them for COVID-19; 1 was found of 113 cases. The toll-free number 1922 served as a hotline for citizens to report suspicious symptoms or cases in themselves or others; as the disease progressed, this hotline has reached full capacity, so each major city was asked to create its own hotline as an alternative. It is not known how often this hotline has been used. The government addressed the issue of disease stigma and compassion for those affected by providing food, frequent health checks, and encouragement for those under quarantine. This rapid response included hundreds of action items.

The result was that they were able to contain the virus much better than most other countries, especially in Europe. Despite a high amount of travel between the affected areas of China and Taiwan, as of today, Taiwan have fewer than 50 cases.


Finally, you can follow this up-to-date graphical representation of the COVID-19 situation based on the Wold Heath Organization’s report of confirmed cases.

Screenshot taken 17:17 GMT on the 13th of March 2020. Click the image for the current status.

That’s a lot of information and there’s more being analysed and released every day. There are wide-ranging and expensive responses which may make a difference still but the economic damage already done can only be mitigated, not undone.

Having collected and written all this, I’m not sure it is actually helpful but I wanted to have some combination of facts with which to start a conversation while we are in a situation in which there are no easy answers and no obvious solution.

I expect a lengthy discussion in the comments and I would like to encourage everyone to leave more information and links to references.

I should say that I will be watching this page more closely than normal for moderation. Please remember not to insult people or make harsh judgemental comments unless you can back them up with science. Thank you :)

Category: Miscellaneous,

22 Comments

  • This is a situation that has implications far beyond aviation. Sylvia has done a lot of groundwork in a short period of time. As she herself comments: this is a subject that can attract lots of comments and I suspect most could well be from outside the aviation community – at least, if a sufficient number of “outsiders” will be (made) aware of this forum.
    I will comment on what I know, mainly from the viewpoint of Ireland.
    From what we know now: the WHO does not (yet) recommend a total ban on air travel. But the news that surrounds the spectaculary rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus has the effect of stopping international travel nearly dead in its tracks anyway.
    At first it seemed that the outbreak would be confined to the Far East with the epicentre in China. But this soon changed.
    Only a short time ago, on the news channels the public were confronted with images of hotels on the Canary Islands where guests who had expected to enjoy a holiday in the warm sun were suddenly put in quarantine. Three large cruise liners were put in isolation. And it did not take a long time before cases appeared in other parts of the world.
    Only two weeks ago, Ireland had zero cases, now the official count is 90 plus 26 in Northern Ireland. As I write this, and as you read it, the numbers may well have gone up in the intervening short period.
    So, before even mentioning the impact on aviation, already a lot has happened, and is still in the process of happening.
    My home base is Ireland. Strangely, Northern Ireland following the UK has not yet taken any measures to reduce mass gatherings.
    Here in the Republic it is a very different story: all schools, colleges and universities are closed at least until 29th of March.
    The same goes for theatres, cinemas, libraries, musea.
    No visitors are allowed in hospitals.
    Some pubs and restaurants are still open for business, but there are only few customers.
    The National Health Services are looking for an additional 10.000 beds.
    Health staff are asked to come out of retirement if their skills level and age will make this desirable.
    The army has made staff available, some are employed in makeshift call centres in order to handle the many queries.
    Police cadets had their training suspended and 300 have been drawn in for actual police duty.
    All those who can work from home are advised to do so.
    Children are more resilient than adults, and the advice is that children should not be allowed to play with other children. They could have no, or only mild symptoms but could infect their parents when they catch the virus. Older people are not to come in contact with their grandchildren as they can be infected and for them this could be serious.
    The Speaker of the House has made an announcement that only one third of the TDs (members of parliament) should attend at the same time and not sit close together.
    Of course, this all followed the initial precautions regarding hygiene and keeping distance.
    So where does that lead aviation?
    Alr services had already been suspended to China in the earlier stages. Italy followed and now there are restrictions with Spain and the Canary Islands.
    Denmark announced that they will only allow Danish nationals.
    Airlines that have traffic slots can lose them if they fail to service these routes. There has been talk about relaxing those restrictions as aircraft are flying virtually empty.
    KLM are still carrying a lot of passengers to their USA destinations, but these people are mainly repatriating and their numbers will soon drop.
    FlyBe was the first victim. Aleady tottering at the brink, the Corona outbreak was the final straw. They were the main airline serving Belfast City, this may well be taken up by the Scottish company Loganair. I doubt that they will be in a hurry to take them up.
    Norwegian are also in trouble. The problems with the 737 Max already caused them to drop several routes, including to the USA.
    BA / Aer Lingus still have reserves, but they are laying off staff on a “temporary” basis. I have been at the receiving end of this nasty piece of legislation: in order to save the company, the staff are taking the brunt. They can be laid off without any notice at all. They are not fired, so they cannot claim unemployment benefits. Taking a job with another employer means that they have resigned, which removes all rights that they may have had resulting from their previous employment. In other words: if the first company goes under, these people will not be entitled to any further compensation regardless of the number of years they had. Worse, if the next employer also has to shut their doors, these people will still be “on probation” and that means: no rights.
    A large number of cockpit- and cabin crew of companies like Ryanair are not in full-time employment. They are under contract and can be put on furlough. Quite a few pilots were attracted by Norwegian a short few years ago, I wonder what happened to them.
    Aviation always has been a cyclical business. The last cycle lasted a long time, it seems that it has come around fullcircle again with a sudden large surplus of out-of-work pilots.
    Guinness Peat Aviation was, in the 1980s, the leader in aircraft leasing. The CEO was the late Dr. Tony Ryan, I was the captain of their first executive jet, an Aerospatiale Corvette EI-BNY.
    Ten years later the company had grown to a size where it was deemed to take it to the stock market. The timing was a disaster, it coincided with the first Gulf war and GPA went down. Dr. Ryan re-emerged as the founder of Ryanair. With the upturn that followed, the market was ripe again for aircraft leasing. Large airlines were able to keep capital in reserve, smaller airlines were able to start up with leased aircraft.
    The sudden and catastrophic downturn in passenger demand will inevitably result in leased aircraft being returned to the leasing company.
    Already an Irish company had to take back a few A380s that are now parked at Knock Airport. A mass withdrawal of aricraft from active service will no doubt put a heavy financial burden on the leasing companies, more so since many aircraft are relatively young and still represent a lot of book capital.
    Many airlines will heave a sigh of relief that the 737 Max still has not been returned to service. Only one year ago they would have needed them, now they would have represented dead capital investments.
    If the situation continues, there will be more victims. Already the holiday charter bookings are down by perhaps 20% or more, Airlines that rely on those holiday flights from operators like TUi will be facing a difficult season. Some pundits predict that it will be June before we will see the situation being brought under some semblance of control.
    In these uncertain times there is only one absolute certainty: The world of aviation will facing one of its biggest shake-ups ever. Who will survive?
    The larger well-established ailines will, albeit maybe in a slimmed-down version.
    It looks as if the days of ultra-cheap flights will be coming to an end.
    The big winners?
    My guess is that eventually a country like China will make a come-back. The country will lick its wounds, the economy will have been damaged, there will be less of newly minted billionaires but the country has enormous capacity.
    Many people will increasingly flock to online shopping. Jeff Bezos may well break through the $ 150 billion barrier. For aviation this will mean an increase in air cargo.
    Delivery by drone? I cannot see that happening, not yet.
    The technology may exist, but the logistics and associacted legislation do not exist – yet.apart from parcel delivery, they may also be decoys for al sorts of observations and spying missions.
    If it starts, I suspec that many people will invest in equipment to shoot them out of the air.
    But first: let us get over COVID-19 !

    • “Airlines that have traffic slots can lose them if they fail to service these routes. There has been talk about relaxing those restrictions as aircraft are flying virtually empty.” I have seen (in passing) news that this has happened; apparently some authorities decided to be sensible rather than expecting that airlines would waste fuel (and add to atmospheric CO2) flying almost-empty planes.

  • My favorite information page has been https://www.flattenthecurve.com/ , although the informationisbeautiful page also impresses me. I’ll be very interested in how mortality figures per country will turn out in the end!

    I’m subscribed to an aviation channel on youtube which reports quite a few major airlines grounding their A380 fleet; I wonder what that bodes for Boeing’s latest 777x effort? On avherald, some commenters point out that the passenger numbers in recent accidents or incidents point to quite empty aircraft already.

    Public life will take a downturn here this weekend; although the chance to contract the virus is yet small where I live (230 confirmed cases in a state of 8 million means the chance of finding someone infected in public who doesn’t know they are should be less than 1 in 10000), restaurants and cinemas were nearly empty today, schools have started the Easter holidays two weeks early, and many events are being canceled, which means economic diffculties for live artists and event technicians. We had a small concert on Thursday, the chance that someone carrying Covid19 was among the 30 people attending was less than 1:1000. The bigger the events are, and the more the infection spreads, the worse it’ll get, though.

    • The A380 was failure; going by the numbers on Wikipedia, over half the planes went to one airline (Emirates), and the order total was ~12% of the 77x so far. Air traffic has fallen so far that there isn’t much benefit in shifting from A380 to B777 (aside from costs in retraining pilots); my guess is that airlines will postpone all purchases, and possibly even forfeit deposits, until they see how long/slow the recovery is.

      I’ve heard one medico quoted as saying this is only the first wave — that we’re likely to see something just as bad, if not worse, when northern-hemisphere winter returns and people spend more time indoors. That’s a slightly-educated guess (this was from a primary-care person rather than an epidemiologist), but I expect airlines will be very cautious about buying new planes for the next year or more; after then, we \may// have a vaccine with enough effectiveness and enough doses to stagger back towards normality.

      • The outlook for this is hard to predict. With the containment strategy seemingly failed for most countries, and no basic immunity for anyone, most of the people on the planet are likely to become infected at some point (with about 1 in 20 infections being life-threatening), and the challenge for each country’s health system is going to be just how many pneumonia patients they’re going to be able to keep alive.

        The long-term challenge lies in “out-vaccinating” the virus, i.e. to inoculate enough of the world’s population against current strains of the virus to prevent it mutating into strains that the vaccination won’t cover. The outcomes are that we’re either going to mostly eradicate the disease, or that, like the flu, we won’t. Thankfully, the flu had a much bigger head start than Covid19 is getting.

  • Get ready to buy airline stocks, the chart with the 1-3 and 6 mo’s tracking of previous outbreaks is very interesting.

    • These previous incidents were contained outbreaks, not pandemics.
      I’m expecting a LOT less people to fly for the holidays this year, so the typical upturn in passenger numbers for the summer months may not be happening, or not be as pronounced. I think it’s a reasonable assumption that many people will not want to take the risk of flying when they could just do a holiday trip by car. Airlines depending on that traffic to survive will be hit hard.
      How much of business travel is going to be replaced by videoconferencing is anyone’s guess.

  • The A380 is magnificent feat of engineering. From an airline point of view, it came too late. The venerable 747 had occupied the slot for (very) heavy wide body commercial passenger jets for as loing as that slot existed. The development of a competitor inevitably took years, then there were delays getting it into production. By that time different technology and proven reliability enabled smaller aircraft to fly very long-haul routes. That reduced the hub-and-spoke sector. The remaining hub-and-spoke routes could adequately be served by the 747, 777, A340 and the later more modern, more fuel efficient models.
    The Dreamliner eventually overcame the battery problems. The market for the super Jumbo jets dried up.
    I just wonder how many of those now “White Jumbos” are owned by lesing companies, rather than by airlines directly. The same goes for very large twins, like the 777X. Financial institutions may soon be badly stung too. There was talk about scrapping A380s. Sad to see them end in that way.

  • Thanks to Sylvia and all of the commentators for a really useful analysis of the way the airline industry is being affected……..this may be the end of commercial aviation as we know it in the short to medium terms ?

    The impact on employees will be hard, with firing at short notice and not much rehiring for a long time. The bust is reminiscent of my experience as a geologist in the exploration and mining industry, copper (1970s), coal (1980s) and gold (1990s), when a fluctuation of a few $ per ton or ounce was the difference between a shortage of experienced staff earning high wages and thousands of geologists driving taxis and tending bars. It was hard then and will be so now.

    Finally, thanks for the steer to the very useful websites, which are a great help and I have forwarded the links to family and friends.

  • Peter Purcell is right: we may indeed be facing a radical change in commercial aviation, rather than a temporary “blip”.
    Airbus Industries already have been forced to write off a very large amount of investment, the result of the failure of the A380. No, I repeat, it was en engineering triumph but the timing of its introduction was a failure.
    But at least, Airbus had been preparing for this event.
    Boeing will now be faced with a surplus both of a stock of already produced 737Max, plus a now inevitable overcapacity of their production plants. How this will pan out, especially in the light of dented confidence in the integrity of the Boeing management, cannot yet be ascertained.
    This will be felt in the number of vacancies for airline pilots; the job situation of many of those who are not full-time employees of major airlines will be uncertain at best.

  • A parallel already emerges in my circle of close contacts. After retiring as a pilot I re-trained as a tourist guide here in Ireland, first with courses held by the Irish Tourist Board, then at university level. Last year I graduated with a master’s degree in history.
    I have been working on a regular basis with a Dublin-based tour operator, mainly on day tours all over Ireland.
    This company has been very pro-active and the CEO is a very energetic man. He created a super team, great team spirit, he always is accessible and willing to listen to his employees. When I was still an active pilot, our annual recurrent training always incorporated sessions where cockpit crew management was part of the discussions.
    Keith (his real name) would have represented the example of an ideal manager.
    Last year the company invested heavily. Every year they added a few new coaches to the fleet. Over the nearly ten years that I did free-lance work for them this increased from a total of seven – from mini coaches with 16 to 19 passenger seats to 63 seat behemoths – to about 38.
    Last year they started hop-on-hop-off routes in Dublin with open top double deck buses. They were not new, but this year they took delivery of a brand-new 115 seat double-deck luxury coach. This one alone represented an investment of €750.000, a large luxury coach can cost € 250.000, a good deal more if it is a tri-axle vehicle with steering rear wheels.
    Now, just at the start of the season with the expected buzz of St. Patrick’s day it has all come to a complete standstill until at least until the end of the month. Even then, it is very doubtful that the tourists will be back in town and some predict that it may be June before we see any real improvement. And that is assuming that the corona virus will be under control. A very big “IF”.
    This may well break the back of this, and other companies.
    Similarly, tour operators who aim at the holiday market abroad will see – already have seen – their bookings dwindle. And many that were still on the books may not go ahead. The airline industry is starting to contract, laying off, reducing flights or cancelling altogether. Some countries are closing their borders.
    This will place another time bomb under the aviation industry: Currency.
    Not the stuff that you may still have in your purse, but the state of readiness of a pilot to be enabled to be rostered. If a pilot has not been active for a certain period of time they must undergo rec-current training. If I remember correctly, the FAA specifies a minimum of 3 take-offs and 3 full-stop landings in the preceding 90 days. I have always been lucky enough not having to worry about this aspect, but I believe that the requirements in Europe are far more stringent. Airlines have their own rules that again are more limiting.
    My point here is: many pilots will be laid off. If the situation continues furloughs may become permanent and more pilots will become couch potatoes, waiting for the phone call that may never come.
    Recovery will take a long time in the coming and be slow. The airline industry may not recover to the numbers that we have seen even since a few short weeks ago, or by the time it does many pilots may have reached the age of retirement. But even if the recovery comes more quickly than the doom-and-gloom scenario that I just predicted (and may I be wrong !!), there will be the little problem of getting those who are so lucky to be re-called current again.
    There will be a run on training facilities. Larger carriers have their own training facilities, not all smaller ones do. I remember when I was going to fly the Citation again, I had been absent from that type for a number of years. I had logged more than 2000 hours on the Citation. After that I had flown other types of aircraft, much larger too, but the Irish Aviation Authority specified that I had to do the entire type-rating again. When I asked if a recurrency program would be acceptable I was told: “As if you have never flown that type of aircraft before”.
    There was a high demand for training. Flight Safety at Farnborough and Le Bourget were booked out, the only slot available was in San Antonio.
    This involved permission from the TSA. I was already a qualified pilot. If I were a terrorist I would not require training for a suicide mission but that made no difference. To get the required permission, a prerequisite to be allowed to travel, never mind admitted to the training facility itself, was a nighmare. I had to get finger printed by someone who had TSA approval, I also had to present myself with my licences to an FAA office – in person. I had to book a quick return flight to the USA where my old FAA licence (still printed on paper) was taken in and the rating “Ce500 US test passed” removed. It was to be re-issued after completion of the training in SAT. After that, I had a few hours sleep in a motel and took the first flight back to Ireland.
    So the gist of this argument is that, even if demand by the public for airline services increases again, it may take some time to get the crews back on stream.
    OK, here comes the doomsday sayer:
    “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
    This thing ain’t over, it is only just startin’!”

    • That’s a very good point. KLM is retiring its 747s earlier than planned, and American is retiring its 767s. With Rudy’s insight, I see that those decisions have the advantage that these airlines won’t have pilots with currency problems, because they simply don’t fly those aircraft types any more.
      The A380 operators, on the other hand, are bound to have to either invest in empty recurrency flights or in retraining if they want to use these aircraft again, if the grounding continues. (The thought of seeing A380s in the pattern doing touch-and-go landings so the crew can stay current is intriguing.)

  • Mendel,
    You have a point, but one thing has changed. Simulators now are so sophisticated that pilots can complete the entire training programme on them. The only time they see the real aircraft (during training, of course) is when they are brought into a maintenance hanger where they will be introduced to the intricacies of the walk-around, how to open and close doors (usually done by the cabin crew anyway) and see where the bunk beds are for aircraft used on the (very) long-haul flights.
    When they start their route training there will be an experienced extra crew member of the same rank, the so-called “base training” – your touch-and-goes, Mendel – are nowadays often dispensed with.
    But using a highly sophisticated flight simulator is not with the intention to save money, it is just because training can be much more realistic, much more intensive and crews can be brought right “up to the wire”.
    More realistic because the instructor will be working the panel behind the (mock) cockpit, the trainees will be teamed as an operational crew: captain and F/O. The session will start with a realistic briefing, as if the flight will be scheduled on an actual route. So complete with weather briefing, loads, notams, security, possible deferred defects. The crew will plan the session as for a real flight, except that there will be all sorts of problems. Weather, notoc, extra fuel requirements, the decision whether or not to accept the aircraft in the light of notams and weather.
    An old joke is that the instructor will tell the crew that, “in order to make the session more realistic, we will start with half an hour delay.”
    If the captain decides that (s)he cannot accept the aircraft with the outstanding defects – usually rightly so – (s)he will be told that “the mechanics just informed us that the defects have been fixed”.
    Usually, for a training session, the weather conditions are awful. The captain will decide to upload extra fuel, meaning to reduce the payload.
    A weight-and-balance sheet will be prepared, just like in the “real world”. Mind, at this stage we have not yet boarded the aircraft, in this case the simulator.
    The start-up, push-back and taxy procedures are just as realistic.
    I can go on, but it will be obvious that airlines do take training very seriously indeed. It illustrates why I said “more intensive”, also because in the sim the crew will be presented with multiple problems, failures and emergencies. Instead of touching switches or handles to simulate actions like dealing with an engine failure or fire, in the sim the crew will perform all these actions. For the sake of safety, that cannot really be done in the simulator. “To the wire”: in the simulator an instructor can decide to allow a mistake or failure to (re)act correctly to progress right into a crash situation. In one simulator, if that happened, the screens representing the windows would flash, followed by the face of the Devil looking in at the crew. In another one the figure looking at the crew (probably having failed the session) was Garfield, the cartoon cat.
    But never mind, remaining current is costly and time-consuming.
    Airlines may not have much time to prepare themselves. It still is impossible to predict when the corona outbreak will be under control. Usually, crews are rostered months in advance for their recurrent training. In the present situation, that will be a near impossibility. At least, for crews that have been laid off.

    • And I thought the trial session (also a simulation) that I had to take before the college radio station would let me engineer unsupervised was harsh…
      Modern simulators support much more … interesting … error responses than old training systems; Arthur C. Clarke’s docu-novel Glide Path (about the development of GCA) says that trainees who gave the wrong instructions were notified by the sound of a matchbox crushed next to their ear.

  • Correction: “For the sake of safety, that cannot really be done in the simulator”, read: “… in the AIRCRAFT”.

  • VASAviation reports that the towers at Midway and Las Vegas have been evacuated and the airports are now operating uncontrolled. It’s probably a good thing that many of the flights have been canceled!

  • I cannot imagine European airports working without ATC. The system here has very substantial differences from what is normal practice in the USA.
    Of course, if the covid-19 pandemic is not under control soon there is no way telling what will happen next. In the ‘seventees, during an ATC strike, the French government staffed ATC centres with air force controllers. I believe there was a mid-air collision because they were used to the much higher manoeuvrability of military aircraft, not to the more sedate “rate 1” turns that airlines use for the sake of passenger comfort. When that did not work, the entire airspace was closed for IFR traffic. Airlines are in general not even allowed to file VFR. I remember having virtually the entire airspace for myself with the Cessna 310.
    We got “advisory service” from the air force.
    Of course, we are now facing a totally different situation.
    Aer Lingus today announced that the staff will be on half pay and 70% of all flights are going to be cancelled. Ryanair may cease all operations from next week.
    My prediction is that if this situation lasts beond the end of March – and all indications predict that it may last well into the summer – many airlines will not survive, or if they do it will be in a very much slimmed-down version.
    Governments already are committing billions and billions to help those who are affected most. People who lost their jobs – here in Ireland the number added is already over 150.000 – and key industries. Banks will have to be propped up to prevent large-scale insolvency and to maintain cash flow in general.
    There just will not be the money to prop up the airlines.
    That in turn will result in the end of cheap air fares that we have become accustomed to. An airline ticket priced lower than a bus or railway fare will no longer be possible. We also must be prepared to see cheap tropical produce (e.g. raw ginger, out-of-season strawberries etc. etc.) becoming too expensive for most of us.
    It will destroy the tourist industry, especially in places like the Bahamas, the Far East, Maldives, South America, Dubail, you name them..
    It will also curtail the mobility that we have become so used to.
    I hope that I will be wrong!

  • Before Sylvia closes this discussion:
    She published a graph that showed a recovery in aviation activities after previous major outbreaks. Six to seven months later, things were nearly back to normal.
    I hope that this is right, but I do not think so. Even the SARS outbreak did not infect nearly the entire world, certainly not in a similar manner and not as rapidly. The situation in Italy is escalating alarmingly. Doctors now have to triage patients to determine which one has the better chances of survival. They are the ones given the now very scarce resources. This evening the news channel showed a column of military trucks in the north Italian town of Bergamo, bringing the bodies of dead people to a crematorium.
    The USA still is groping in the dark, the buffoon in 10 Downing Street has finally started to realise how dangerous the situation is and now has taken action. Hopefully the horses were still in the stable when the doors were locked.
    Iran is another severe case, Spain is starting to go in lock-down, France not far behind. Ireland already went into a virtual lock-down a week ago.
    The level of occupation on Aer Lingus flights has dropped by 75%.
    Correspondingly, the still operational routes are reduced to 50% and half the staff are put on half days, with half pay reduction.
    Many tour operators are closing their doors, quite a few may never reopen again.
    Ryanair may cease all operations soon.
    This is only Ireland!
    Galway, the 2020 European Capital City of Culture, is nearly deserted.
    After the opening was already ruined by a severe force 11 storm, it is not very likely that the event will recover.
    Under the circumstances it seems highly, extremely, unlikely that aviation will recover within a year. The Covid-19 outbreak has not even peaked yet, medical experts fear that it will not be over until July, some think that even if under control, there will still be active pockets of the virus until 2021 and contact may re-infect areas where the virus had been eradicated.
    Aviation may never recover to the levels we have enjoyed until so recently.

    • I think the demand to travel is going to come back once this is over, and the organizations best suited to meet that demand are the airlines that satisfied this demand before the crisis. If a bank is faced with the alternatives to either fund a brand new airline or to bankroll an existing airline in a post-Covif-19-world, going with the existing airline is going to be the safer option (provided it was profitable before the crash).

      The risk is that the traveling public changes their habits permanently as a result of this crisis. There are various factors involved: one is, do they get their money back if another pandemic occurs? In other words, is buying a ticket a gamble? Consumer protection helps the airlines here: customers being able to return their tickets and getting their money back means they’ll still part with their mony in the future. Another factor are environmental concerns: we’re seeing environmental improvements as a result of lockdowns (the water in Venice is clear again!), and people might realize that their lives can be fun without ecologically damaging air travel.The third factor might be the awareness that infections can easily spread on aircraft, and people might become afraid that the health problems in their holiday spot aren’t the fault of the water there, but result from the fact they used an airplane to get there. I haven’t researched if that is in fact a valid concern, so take this one with a grain of salt. Fourth factor is, airlines might have higher costs due to insuring against such an event occurring again, which could raise ticket prices, and thus affect the volume of people who can afgord to fly.

      But if things return to normal, chances are that people will want to fly again, and there are going to be airlines to meet that demand.

  • Mendel.
    May you be right, I will be glad to eat my hat (I don’t wear one, even hated wearing the one supplied with the uniform so that is OK).
    Let us say “Amen” to that.

    Banks may not be too eager to finance start-up airlines before the public demands it. chicken or egg?
    The light at the end is that Boeing has all the time in the world to sort out the Max once and for all and be eager to flog them. Let us just hope that the light at the end of the tunnel will not be the headlight of an oncoming train!
    Wait and see is the new game in town.

  • In the WHO press conference that ended just now, Michaal J. Ryan mentioned that due to the travel restrictions, the WHO has difficulties moving supplies and experts around the world. So Covid-19 does affect aviation, but in a sense, aviation also affects Covid-19!

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